iOS 14 Widget Woes

iOS and iPadOS

I was all excited about using the new widgets in iOS 14 after listening to the excellent AppleVis podcast on this topic. So I went ahead and put together a stack of widgets using VoiceOver.

Now I wish I hadn't done that and rearranged my home screen to try and get rid of some apps.

First, I thought having all of the widgets stacked would be a great idea to quickly preview some apps without actually finding them and opening them up. Of course you will want to stack them because they take up a two by two area on your home screen. But what a pain to switch widgets! Here is the tedious process one has to use:
1. Swipe to the stack of widgets.
2. Swipe up or down several times until you get to the "next widget" or "previous widget" item.
3. Activate the "next widget" or "previous widget" choice by performing a single finger double tap.
4. Now you have opened the next or previous widget. If this isn't the widget you wanted, you are out of luck and there is more work to do. Unfortunately, since you are now in the new widget, you can't simply swipe up/down to get to the "next widget" or "previous widget". Proceed to the next step!
5. Now, since focus is in the widget that you don't want, you have to flick to get out of it and onto some other folder, app, or screen element.
6. With focus now out of the open widget, you have to go all the way back to step #1 and go through the process again. What a nightmare and waste of time if the widget you want is several widgets from the one that is open!

Much as I love the accessibility of my iPhone, it is this type of workflow that would make me shy away from ever moving from Windows to Mac. Although the above process is Perfectly "accessible", it isn't really "useable", "productive", or "efficient". If one has to initiate an inordinate number of actions to get something done, even if every action and element is "accessible", it certainly isn't enjoyable or fast.

Anyway, sorry for the editorial there, so let me move on.

The second issue I am seeing is that, although I was able to swipe to and from the widget stack after first setting up my stack of widgets, it seems that now I am often only able to swipe away from an open widget to a folder or app on the home screen and then, when trying to swipe to the widget stack, I can only actually swipe back again to the open widget. If one can't navigate to the widget stack, one never gets the option to switch to another widget in the stack. When in an "open" widget, flicking left/right moves as it would within the open widget dialog and stays within that widget. This particularly happens when the Calendar is one of the widgets in the widget stack and one opens the Calendar widget. I find no way of getting out of it.

But wait, there is more!

The third issue I am seeing is that flicking left into an open widget and then flicking right to get out doesn't bring me to the same place from which I started. For example, if I am on my Messages app and flick left into an open widget, then when I flick right to get out of the open widget focus will unexpectedly end up on my Notes app. I expect flicking one way and then back again to land me in my original location. I understand that the widget is taking up a two by two grid, but I do expect the process to be reversible, i.e., flicking right should undo a flick left.

Fourth and finally (for now), although in the AppleVis podcast when Thomas changed from widget to widget in the stack the title or app associated with the widget was spoken, I am often not getting that feedback. Thus, after switching to the next or previous widget I have to flick within the newly opened widget to find out which one it is. If that wasn't the widget I was looking for, you guessed it, I have to go back to the six step process listed at the beginning of this post.

Maybe there is something I'm doing wrong here, but the user experience with widgets and VoiceOver certainly hasn't been pleasurable thus far with this user. Hopefully someone has some pointers that could help. In the meantime I'll probably work on getting rid of these widgets and putting my home screen back to where it was in iOS 13.

As a side note, I'm thinking that Apple didn't take advantage of the one feature of using VoiceOver that would be advantageous for blind users. Since VoiceOver users don't care about the size of print and only use speech feedback, these widgets that take up a two by two grid for sighted users need only take up a one by one grid for us VoiceOver users! Well, that's a bit of tongue in cheek, but on the serious side, I hope there is a solution for some of the above issues.

FYI, my system is an iPhone XR. The widgets in my stack are: Stocks, Calendar, Battery, News, and Weather. Don't know if some of these particular widgets might be individually ill behaved or not.




Submitted by Gadget Meistress on Saturday, September 19, 2020

Well, more like something I think oughta be allowed in future: I thought it would be great to have multiple instances of the weather app in one stack, each instance would be for a diffrent location. I personally had not thought of grouping different category app widgets into a stack, but more several instances of the weather widget for different locations. I'm hoping that possibility is added in a future update, since that does not appear to be possible. Also, I heard that you can three finger scroll between widgets in a stack to go from one to the other? Have you tried that?

Submitted by Pyro2790 on Saturday, September 19, 2020

I never thought I'd say this, but I liked the way things were presented in IOS 13 better than the widget stacks in IOS 14. AS previously commented widget use is not efficient with voice over and its a cumbersome process to switch to the next or previous one. The stock widget will only show 3 stocks now without actually opening up the app. It eliminates the home screen being a dedicated page, but beyond that it's not very useful with VoiceOver.

Thanks for the suggestion to flip through the widgets using the three finger swipe up/down. That certainly saves a lot of time and effort. I didn't know about that gesture. Surprising that the VoiceOver hint didn't mention that as it does supply hints for other actionable items.

However there are still two downsides that need to be improved.

1. When I move my finger to the widget to give it focus, focus often (but not always) jumps to one of my other folders or apps on the Home screen and doesn't stay on the widget.
2. Although some widgets say what they are when I switch to them (like the battery widget says "Battery"), most of the widgets either don't say anything or simply say something like "blue background" when I swipe to them. Not very helpful. Then one has to flick away and back again to read the contents of the widget to figure out what it is to see if it is the desired widget to which one was trying to navigate.

This seems like a work in progress for VoiceOver users and certainly isn't perfect yet.

Thanks anyway for the hint about the useful three finger swipe to switch widgets.


Submitted by Catherine on Monday, September 21, 2020

Yikes! iOS 14 new to me today, so glad I came to apple is - no longer feeling alone. Never considered battery levels would be in a stack! I’m off to explore using 3 finger flick. ANy other suggested gestures welcome. Be good

This is entirely possible, and I've done it. It takes some work, but it can be done.

Go into edit mode. Create a second weather widget. Make sure it's the same size as the one you already have, or they won't stack. If it's the default, it'll be small, which is the first option you have.

Go out of edit mode and find your new widget and triple tap on it. From the context menu you get there, choose edit widget. There you should be able to select the location you want for the second one. Set it, and back out of the edit screen.

Now, go back into edit mode. Drag your new widget, and go find the other one. Then drop it. The option you want is make a stack with weather and weather. Now you should have what you want.

Let me know if this isn't clear enough. Believe it or not, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Submitted by peter on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Okay, I learned two new gestures from this thread:

1. Three finger flick down to cycle through widgets.
2. Single finger triple tap to edit a widget.

I don't think I've ever come across these gestures before. Where are people finding the documentation for gestures to be used with widgets and VoiceOver?



Submitted by Yvonnezed on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The three finger triple tap thing isn't really a widget gesture, just a gesture to bring up a context menu on an item that works in a lot of places. Just so happens one of the options in that menu is to edit the widget. Always a good idea to check that when adding a widget, it often lets you choose things like folders to display etc.

Visually, apparently the widget flips over, but anyway. As for documentation, I'm not really sure. I haven't looked at the official iOS apple manuals you download in the books app yet to see if it's documented there, although given my experience last year I'm not holding out a lot of hope.